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Cooler temperatures, rain and some snow Monday help progress on Montana wildfires

Cooler temperatures, rain and some snow Monday help progress on Montana wildfires

Bobcat fire scenes

Sleet falls on forest burned in the Bobcat fire near Roundup on Sunday after a cold front descended on the Bull Mountains.

Bobcat fire: The Bobcat fire burning 7  miles south of Roundup went from zero percent contained heading into Sunday to about 50% by early evening. 

Cool, rainy weather helped firefighters complete containment lines around Highway 87, according to a Monday night update posted to the fire's InciWeb page. 

Tim Engrav, a public information officer on the fire, said most of the containment was done on the western side of the fire.

Rain may have totaled to almost half an inch, Engrav said. Rain started in the morning and was steady before ending somewhere around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.

Tuesday personnel plan on continuing to cool hot areas of fire around structures and to complete additional containment.

The favorable weather also prompted officials to lift all evacuation orders Monday for residents within the fire's perimeter.

The fire is estimated to be 46.4 square miles in size and is burning amid tall grass, ponderosa pines and sagebrush. A southwestern portion of the fire was mapped more accurately by Monday, which Engrav said was the reason the estimated size of the fire increased Sunday to Monday.

A total of 350 firefighting personnel have been assigned to the fire. The fire's incident commander is Rick Connell of the Type 2 Northern Rockies Incident Management team.

Engrav said that weather will remain cool for the next two to three days, which will help firefighters continue to work on extinguishing heavier fuels and hot spots along the fire edge and improve containment.

Bridger Foothills fire: At about 7 p.m. Monday the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office announced that in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service Type 1 Management Team, some evacuation orders would be lifted permanently unless people are otherwise notified.

The Type 1 team took command of the fire Monday.

Warmer temperatures are still expected later in the week, but rain and snow both hit higher elevation areas of the fire Monday. The minimal fire activity allowed firefighters to continue building fire lines and securing and assessing structures, according to an early afternoon InciWeb update.

About 160 personnel were assigned to the fire Monday. Early in the day it was estimated to be about 11.1 square miles in size.

According to the sheriff's office announcement:

  • The Kelly Canyon road closure has been moved from I-90 to the intersection of Bridger Canyon Road
  • Kelly Canyon and Moffit Gulch residents may return home permanently unless otherwise notified
  • The Jackson Creek road closure has been moved from I-90 to the intersection of Jackson Creek Road and Laughing Horse Lane. Residents between those two intersections may return home permanently unless otherwise notified.
  • Bridger Canyon Road remains closed from Jackson Creek to Brackett Creek Road. 

Huff fire: The Huff fire that began burning last week north of the Garfield County town of Jordan was hit by rain Sunday night.

The fire was last estimated to be about 73 square miles in size. Sunday evening it was 65% contained.

Garfield County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Anne Miller reported on the county's DES Facebook page that the heaviest bands of rain were "almost perfectly covering the tracks" of the fire. 

Locals continued to assess damage and prioritize needs, according to Miller's Monday morning update.

She said an estimated 200 sheep are believed to have been killed by the fire, along with several cows. Confirmation of livestock losses is ongoing, according to Miller. 

Some livestock remain at large and Miller urged motorists to use caution when traveling through the area. Referring to an aerial photo published Monday showing blackened ground within the vicinity of Jordan, Miller wrote "We are incredibly fortunate not to have lost town."

Late last week the number of secondary structures lost was estimated to be about 20.

The town was evacuated at one point the day the fire broke out as flames headed for the community. The fire ultimately went around the town. Miller has previously quoted a local wildland firefighter as saying "Skirted is being nice. Diverted with the awesome help of firefighters, tankers and God would be more like it."

Sarpy fire: The fire was reported Monday to be 70% contained and about 81 square miles in size.

Located about 20 miles east of Hardin, the fire has burned in short grass and ponderosa pines.

Several days of mopping up and rehabilitation are expected even after Monday rain on the fire.

The south side of the fire toward Busby has burnt trees hanging across the fire line and the same area needs mop-up work to go more than 15 feet in from the edge of the fire line, according to incident commander trainee Mario Pretty Boy.

The fire was forecast to get more than half an inch of rain Monday.

Rice and Snider fires: Cool temperatures, rain, and 95% containment prompted the demobilization of resources from the Rice and Snider fires burning 6 and 20 miles north of Ashland among pine, juniper, grass and both downed and standing dead trees.

The fires are estimated to be about 73.5 square miles in size.

"The County Assist Team is demobilizing resources, the fire is secured and displays no threat," the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reported in a Monday morning update on the fire.


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